Trip to Madison Wisconsin and Chicago Illinois filled with many firsts + A VIDEO!

This past week we wrapped up our week long visit up to Madison Wisconsin and Chicago Illinois. We went to visit Nick’s brother, Andy, who moved there about 2 years ago! It was such a whirlwind of a trip that flew by and was packed full of so many firsts for us. Coming from living in the capital city of Little Rock, I thought we would kind of be used to the “downtown” feel but I couldn’t have been more wrong. I know our downtown isn’t anything huge, but I assumed most cities kind of have the same feel to them. BUT, insert: Madison & Chicago! Two totally different cities with two totally different vibes and two shocked southerner’s. Ha! We had a lot of fun and realized we’re more of a small city type of couple, but it is so much fun to see somewhere so different and to change things up a bit! Minus the colds we brought back with us as souvenirs, we had so much fun! We wouldn’t have been able to find our way around either city if we didn’t have our tour guides, Andy & Mahmoud! Thank goodness for them because they were our own personal GPS’s the entire time! It was fabulous!

One of my favorite parts of both cities was being able to walk everywhere you want to go! (Especially Madison!) We walked and walked and did more walking from sun up to sun down! We most definitely earned our lunches/dinners every single day. I was pretty excited to get in a ton of moving because that 12+ hour drive about did me in on the way there. Plus, I didn’t run the entire time I was gone, so it worked out perfect to keep my legs moving in some way! I tracked each day with my FitBit and I think I averaged 18-20k each day we were there. I average about 12k at home so that’s a lot more than normal for this girl!

Rewind back to right before we left: Our fur children are not ever super excited when they see the suitcases come out. Cooper sat in here for a good 30 minutes until I had to have him move over and actually, ya know…pack. πŸ™‚ Then, I told him his Nanny (Aka, my mom) was coming to take care of them and I think he perked right up!

We left Little Rock around 7:00AM on Tuesday and didn’t actually arrive to Madison until around 7:45PM that night. Talk about a long day of driving! But, this was our view when we pulled into downtown and had dinner. Not too bad, right? If you’ve never been to Madison, it’s amazingly beautiful and is surrounded by water. It’s also centered right around this Capital view and is just stunning everywhere you look!

We started off that Wednesday with a tour of downtown Madison! We couldn’t have asked for better weather either! It was so warm out and super sunny!

I loved all of the messages everywhere too all over the walls and in little hidden corners in the city. It is such a positive vibe everywhere you turn there! (Just a tad bit different than Little Rock can tend to be! πŸ˜‰ Ha!)

Then, we went for a tour of University of Wisconsin which was a total shock! It was HUGE!! AND filled with cyclists going in every possible direction! We couldn’t believe how many people filled up this college town. Nick lived in Fayetteville (Home of the UofA) for a few years back in college and said that didn’t even compare at all with the size! It was impressive! Plus, their campus sits right next to the lake and had an amazing spot to grab lunch at their Union. They even served wine and beer! We of course had to treat ourselves! You know we couldn’t turn it down!

Next, we headed down to grab some lunch at Ian’s pizza. It was soooo insanely good and hit the spot after all that walking! They even had a pizza made of macaroni and cheese which is apparently what they’re famous for! We came close to trying it, but decided to play it safe with pepperoni.

After lunch we headed over to one of their parks by the water called “Picnic Pointe” to see the skyline of the city. Again, it did NOT disappoint. Everything there looked like it was in a book! Just beautiful!

The next day we visited the cutest garden in downtown. It had the brightest flowers, even in mid October! I could’ve stayed there forever! They had such pretty water features and birds chirping everywhere, so relaxing and serene!

The next day it was a little gloomy, so we decided to head indoors and drive about an hour North to a place called “The House on the Rock”. It had the craziest story with it that I’d ever heard and we felt like we were walking into a creepy thriller movie. Apparently, there was a man that had this dream of building a house on a rock in the middle of nowhere! Well…he did just that! Then, he added tons and tons of his favorite things that he collected throughout the years and built on the house which ended up becoming a crazy museum filled with all of his collective items. He had such a wild imagination and was insanely creative with everything he dreamt up and built. You have to see it in person to really get the full idea, but here a few of the images I got while we walked around there for about 3 hours.

The strange part was that he liked to collect dolls and circus characters which were EVERYWHERE. He also wired musical sections along each part that played the musical instruments without actual people playing them. He created the largest carousel in America that didn’t include one single horse on it, but animals and other imagined creatures! You can see it in the video at the bottom of this post! Seriously, when we walked out we didn’t know what just happened to that last 3 hours of our life! ha! It was quite an interesting sight to see!

Andy even said it made it to a TV show as one of the weirdest places in America……which totally made sense to us! To think he actually lived in this place made it even more insane to grasp. It was very neat, but also so weird all at the same time!

His imagination was impressive to say the least…

Then, we were off to Chicago! Our trip didn’t slow down the entire time, so right when we got to Chicago, it was off to see the city! We just so happened to book this trip the EXACT same weekend as the Chicago Marathon which made me one happy girl! Sadly we didn’t get to see the actual marathon because of our early leave time on Sunday, but I at least got to see the finish line and had to snap a picture of it! Who knows, maybe one day I’ll head back there for that race!

We took our first ever Uber (actually took 2!) and rode in our first taxi! The Uber’s were awesome but the taxi….not so much! I’ve never actually feared for my life as much as I did on our taxi ride. Supposedly, the taxi driver’s are in a bit of a hurry later in the day and our driver drove like a mad man through the city and made our lives flash before our eyes! Thank goodness we made it out alive and well but it came close a few times that I didn’t think that was going to be the case. But, again–another first to add to our list and I think the taxi ride may have been our last—at least for now. πŸ˜‰ We loved all of the cute bike share’s throughout the city. I just couldn’t see how someone would be able to ride their bikes alongside those speedy cars! Good thing they’re probably better cyclists than I am.

We started off the day with brunch at the cutest spot, called “Blue Door Kitchen & Garden”. It was so delicious and had the most adorable dinnerware and service! They served coffee out of vintage coffee pots and cold bottled water out of vintage milk jugs. It was just precious! If I lived in Chicago, this would be a frequent on my list.

Next on our list, we headed to the downtown area for the architectural boat tour! I had heard from so many people that this is a must-do when you’re in the city so we added it to our list! It was such a neat experience to see the city from that way and get to know more of the history of each of these massive and gorgeous buildings!

We lucked out and missed the rain which made for a perfect boat ride.

After the boat tour we just walked around town and got to take in all things, Chicago! We got to see the “Bean” and their beautiful architectural park which was right next to the marathon finish line! There were so many runner’s everywhere and I loved it all! But, it sure did make for a busy, people-filled city! We couldn’t believe just how many people were roaming around in every direction!

We even got to ride on the train to get across town! It was just like a movie and we loved it! (I also really couldn’t help but think of all of the germs floating around, but that’s just because I’m a weirdo about germs! ;)) There was even a group of guys that were singing down by the entrance and sounded so good!! It was quite an entertaining spot to be! I can’t imagine riding the train all the time. I’d probably end up lost every single day! I couldn’t help but wonder where all of these people were off to.

Then it was finally time to head back to our AirBnB. That was a first too!! We lucked out and had an amazing view from our condo on the 23rd floor! I mean, it wasn’t that terrible to look at….;) Aren’t those colors just to die for?

Our night was made when we got to see the double rainbow after the rain shower moved through. It was extra pretty over the city!

Our trip wouldn’t have been successful without a real deep dish Chicago pizza though! One of my friends over on Instagram @ashleyruns highly suggested Giordano’s pizzeria and now I know why! We ordered take out because we knew everywhere would be packed and the box it came in was the heaviest pizza box ever. I seriously think it had to have been over 10 pounds! Ohhhhh but it was so worth it! I think we got the real deal and hit the jackpot with this dinner pick! Thanks Ashley for the recommendation!!

Last but not least, our last event of the trip was tickets to see “Motown” the musical! It was Nick’s mom’s birthday while we were there so this was her gift! We didn’t know what to expect but it was FABULOUS!! Every single actor/actress in it was so talented and had beautiful voices!! We would highly recommend this show for sure if you happen to be in town for it! Plus the theater was so gorgeous and the best venue.

I didn’t think it was possible, but the city got even prettier when the sun went down. But, the morning view was pretty tough competition. Did I mention the views from our condo weren’t terrible?

As if this post wasn’t jam packed full enough, I wanted to share a quick little video I put together from our trip! There was so much to see and so much to capture– I wanted to soak it all in! Here’s the video from both cities if you’d like to check it out!

And, that’s a wrap!! Such a fun week filled with so many memories and firsts!! We absolutely enjoyed our trip and learned so much along the way! Mostly germ-x are comfy shoes are necessities in big cities! Ha! But really, it was so neat to see these places I’ve heard so much about before but hadn’t ever been able to see in person! Traveling is just the best and really refreshes you when you make it back home!

Anyways, I hope you guys have a fabulous Sunday!! It’s finally feeling like Fall here this week and I can’t wait to get out in it!! I’m finally recovering from the cold I brought back from our trip and can’t wait to get my last few runs in before the race next weekend!

Before you dive into the new week though, make sure to slow down and spend some extra time for you on Self-Care Sunday today, k?